October 2007


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Photo by Sam Hernandez

Tu Ciudad magazine just named CASA 0101 “Best Performing Arts Venue” in their June/July Best of Latino L.A. edition. In my opinion CASA 0101 is one of the most prolific and soulful theaters in town. With “Chicano Rehab y Mas” and “El Verde,” two comedies on the bill this month, I talked to CASA 0101’s Artistic Director, Eddie Padilla, about their new season, giving a voice to Boyle Heights youth and… potato tacos!LA Taco: Did you grow up in Boyle Heights?

Eddie Padilla: I grew up in San Diego in a neighborhood called “Shell Town” and I don’t mean shells as ocean shells but bullet shells you find all over the place or the shells from the naval station. I moved to Boyle Heights in 2005. Boyle Heights instantly reminded me of Shell Town in terms of demographics, crime rate, police presence, and how gang activity was embedded in the community. Brothers, cousins, parents, close friends, and lovers are all related to gangs.

A friend from USC where I studied theater was doing set building and directing plays at CASA 0101. I got involved when they were producing Josefina Lopez’ Real Women Have Curves.” I expressed interest in directing a play and a few months later became Artistic Director.

Click here for full interview on www.lataco.com.

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“You gotta do something they never got’ em in the world.” Simon Rodia (1875-1965,) top right.

I have chills all over every time I look at this picture of Simon Rodia because it is an undeniable testament to the enormity of Rodia’s achievement: the Towers he single-handedly built on his residential lot in Watts over 33 years every evening after working a construction job and every Sunday, without nails, rivets, bolts, gloves, drill, blueprint, diplomas. I also love this close-up because it shows that Simon did it with immense pride and joy.

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Click here for the full review on www.lataco.com.

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Wanru Tseng, Charles Kim and Robert Covarrubias. Photo by Shane Sato

Wanru Tseng is one of the writers/performers of the hilarious comedy of sketches TELEMONGOL  performed last year at the GTC Burbank. I wanted to meet the creator behind the supremely confident and mischievous Dr. Pho and the actress with perfect comic timing who had me thinking I was watching Betty Boop impersonating Marilyn Monroe.

LA Taco: When did you start writing/performing?

Wanru Tseng: In 2001 I decided to sign up for an improv class and took to it right away. One of my teachers was Robert Covarrubias, a member of the multi cultural improv group Cold Tofu. In 2003 he asked me to join them. This year was the first year we were able to do a sketch collaboration with other comedy groups.

Click here for the full interview on www.lataco.com.

“Selby was not the kind of writer who influenced you, he was the kind who saved your life.” ~ Jerry Stahl

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Being an artist doesn’t take much, just everything you got.” ~ Hubert Selby Jr. aka Cubby Selby

When I moved from Paris, France to Los Angeles in 1991, I had three phone numbers in my pocket, one of which was Hubert ‘Cubby’ Selby’s. I met the legendary author during my first visit to LA in April of that year. Selby was reading along with Henry Rollins at Largo on Fairfax (at the time known as Cafe Largo). Have you ever dreamed of meeting one of your favorite writers? For me, Henry Miller was dead, but Selby was well and living in Los Angeles. During the last years of his life, Miller put a note on his front door in Big Sur asking people to please respect his wish to be left alone. Selby was so approachable Rollins simply found his number in the phone book. I must say one of my motives to meet Selby was self-centered: “If a great writer befriends me, it means there must be a great writer in me.”

Then the other reason. I had just read The Room and identified with that book in a way that I couldn’t even reveal to myself at the time. People came to Cubby because they felt he knew their pain. Like everyone else before me, I was a little apprehensive to meet the author of a work of art that both attracted and terrified me. Even Rollins said he expected to find Selby living in a cave with rats crawling all around him. Then the day came when I sat across from this skinny man with turquoise blue eyes. “I’ve read The Room and I loved it and…” and I suddenly noticed that this man was… weightless… in a supernatural way.

Click here for the full review on www.lataco.com.

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Edward Landler & Brad Byer, makers of the documentary “I Build The Tower” about Simon Rodia and the Watts Towers of Watts, Los Angeles. Photo by Gail Brown.

TACO: It took Simon Rodia 33 years to build the Watts Towers. You’ve been working on “I Build the Tower” for at least fifteen years, what has taken you so long?

Edward Landler: Los Angeles still doesn’t know how to appreciate the Watts Towers. One problem with viewing the Watts Towers as a work of art is that the man who built them didn’t have a pedigree. I think it’s one of the greatest works of art of the 20th century but we live in a city and a culture dominated by an industry that is mainly concerned with the bottom line: how much money did you make? Sam Rodia, the man who built the Towers, didn’t come from a school or studio, he was just a guy. How’s it going to make money? Who’s going to buy them?

The problem with getting the proper respect from the city is the Towers are in the wrong part of town. People don’t want to go there. They’re afraid. But they’re afraid of a myth. There are plenty of other areas of town which are just as dangerous as Watts but Watts has the history and aura of violence and gangs. There are parts of the valley with higher incomes and similar problems.

Click here for the full interview on www.lataco.com.